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Molecular biologist Becky McClain, won a whistle-blower suit against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer after reporting public health and safety concerns.
In April of this year, U.C. Berkeley researchers announced the creation of the U. C. Berkeley Synthetic Biology Institute (SBI), which will ramp up efforts to “engineer” cells and biological systems. Part of its research will include experiments that insert manufactured stretches of DNA into existing organisms to create new, self-replicating artificial life forms—experiments that pose implications for worker safety, public health and environmental safety. A collaboration of university and industry, the SBI enterprise is designed to catapult basic research into profit making applications. From a press release, “SBI will be an important link in a constellation of research centers focused on synthetic biology at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), both of which have made the field a research priority. SBI is unique in its planned collaborations with leading companies, designed to translate leading research on biological systems and organisms efficiently into processes, products, and technologies.”

Where this extensive new research will take place is a matter of some speculation. LBNL, managed by U.C. Berkeley but funded by the Department of Energy, is seeking to...